Information Builders Bets on Kafka for Real-Time Analytics

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Industry pioneer embraces open framework for feeding big R-T data into AI models and apps.

For decades, Information Builders has been the driving force behind the integration of millions, if not billions, of applications that make up some of the most complex business processes ever put into production. At the Information Builder Summit User Conference this week the company make it clear it now intends to build on the legacy by driving analytics into real-time business processes.

To achieve that goal Information Builders announced it will be adding support for the open source Apache Kafka project. This will add real-time data streaming capabilities that can be employed to both instantly surface alerts and alerts. It will also automate or accelerate downstream operational responses, actions, and organizational decisions.

At the same time, Information Builder also said it plans to make available an instance of its application integration and analytics software as a cloud service running on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The service will be managed for customers by Information Builders.

See also: Streaming Analytics Basics: Kafka, Spark, and Cassandra

Information Builders also revamped its WebFOCUS data visualization software, and revealed that it will make its analytics software available via highly portable Docker containers. That will make it simpler for organizations to embed analytics within a variety of applications running on multiple clouds.

While AWS is the preferred cloud for Information Builders, the company still plans to work with organizations that want to deploy Information Builders software on multiple public cloud platforms, according to Jake Freivald, vice president of marketing for Information Builders.

The company envisions organizations using Kafka as a means to apply analytics to real-time data feeds.

How Kafka Works

Originally developed by LinkedIn, Kafka has quickly emerged as a de facto standard for creating a scalable pub/sub message queue designed around a distributed transaction log optimized for processing Big Data. Kafka then connects to other systems via Kafka Connect application programming interfaces (APIs).

Kafka runs on a cluster, known as brokers, that partitions in a way that data gets distributed across the cluster, which can eliminate the need for conventional messaging systems. Kafka itself is based on the commit log, and it allows users to subscribe to it and publish data to any number of systems or real-time applications.

Kafka stores key-value messages (dubbed “producers”) that can be persistently stored, indexed, and timestamped in a RocksDB database. Other processes known as “consumers” can then read messages. Written in a combination of Java and Scala, Kafka also provides access to a Streams API that enables Java applications tho consume data from Kafka and write results back to Kafka. The most well-known use case for Kafka is arguably Uber, which uses the platform to connect passengers with vehicles in near time.

New Foundations and a Resurgence

Information Builders is laying the foundation for injecting artificial intelligence (AI) models into real-time business processes, Freivald explained. Accomplishing that goal will provide an integration framework through which massive amounts of data in real-time can be fed into AI models.

“We really want AI to scale,” Freivald said.

Information Builders is experiencing a resurgence under the leadership of Frank Vella, who was named CEO of the company last January. Long-time Information Builders founder and former CEO Gerald Cohen now serves as chairman. In the first quarter, the privately held company said it saw double-digit, year-over-year growth in software bookings and exceeded its overall financial objectives. New Information Builder customers include American National Bank, AFL, Franklin Templeton Investments, Maryland State Department of Education, and TeamHealth.

Of course, Information Builders is hardly the only provider of an integration platform that has decided to embrace analytics, Kafka and other open source technologies to drive advances in real-time business process integration.

However, given the number of organizations that already rely on middleware and analytics software from Information Builders, it’s clear the company is in a position to accelerate transitions to digital business processes that by definition require modern real-time computing platforms.

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